Mark 8 records the Lord’s unusual healing of a blind man in two stages. After leading him out of town by the hand, Jesus spit on the man’s eyes and touched him, then asked if he could see anything. The man “looked up” and said he saw men like trees, walking (v. 24). Jesus again placed his hands on the man’s eyes, and what happens next is obscured by a textual variant in v. 25.
Variation Among Texts
The Byzantine Majority Text (BMT) reads kaì epoíēsen autòn anablépsai, translated “and made him look up” (NKJV), whereas the NA/UBS Critical Text reads kaì diéblepsen, variously rendered “and he opened his eyes” (ESV), “and he looked intently” (NASB), “and he saw distinctly” (CSB). The main variant concerns the compound verb anablépō, on one hand, which is a combination of the preposition ana (“up”) + the verbal blépō (to “see”), meaning to “look up.” On the other hand, the compound verb diablépō, which is a combination of the preposition dia (“through”) + the verbal blépō (to “see”), means to “look through” or “stare straight” or “see clearly.” While this may not be of major exegetical concern, we could be missing a subtle spiritual truth by not investigating further.
The more popular reading among text critics (though not consistently translated) is diablépō, even though the word does not occur anywhere else in Mark’s Gospel (only in Matt. 7:5; Luke 6:42). Alternatively, the verbal anablépō is repeatedly employed by Mark (6:41; 7:34; 8:24; 10:51, 52; 16:4). This shows Mark’s familiarity with the word as he consistently uses it to communicate something to his reading audience. Let’s appreciate that Mark is not only an inspired historian but also a theologian and evangelist.
Spiritual Significance of “Looking Up”
In Mark 6:41 and 7:34, to “look up” to heaven in prayer was a subtle way for Jesus to direct everyone’s attention to the heavenly Father (cp. Matt. 15:31). In Mark 10:51-52 a blind man receiving his sight is described with the verbal anablépō (lit. to “look up”), but contextually Jesus has been trying to open his disciples’ “eyes” of understanding (8:31-32; 9:10, 32, 34; 10:13, 24, 26, 32, 35-41), and this miracle serves as an object lesson to illustrate this deeper spiritual truth (cf. 8:18). In Mark 16:4 the women were oblivious to Christ’s resurrection until “they looked up” (again the verbal anablépō) and saw the empty tomb.
Back to the unusual miracle in Mark 8:22-26, Jesus seems to be illustrating the difference between partial understanding (vv. 17-21) and clear understanding (v. 29). The semi-healed blind man’s eyes had apparently been pointed downward, having “looked up” to faintly see people at eye level (v. 24). If the verbal anablépō is repeated in v. 25 (as per the Byzantine Majority text), the man is being directed to “look up” even higher (i.e., toward heaven), resulting in complete healing and clear eyesight. This would not only demonstrate miraculous power coming from above (cp. 6:41; 7:34) but would also illustrate that clear understanding results from a heavenly focus rather than an earthly focus (cf. 8:33; Col. 3:2; Jas. 3:17).
Since the rest of v. 25 goes on to affirm that the man’s eyesight was fully restored and he could see clearly, a prefatory diablépō would seem redundant (“he saw clearly”) or out of place (“he saw distinctly”) or misses the spiritual point (“he looked straight”) or has to be construed to fit (“he opened his eyes”). Perhaps ancient copyists were attempting to avoid the repetition of anablépō in vv. 24-25 (unaware of this subtle spiritual truth?) and altered the prepositional prefix (from ana- to dia-) to align with the rest of v. 25.
Whether or not we appreciate the value of textual criticism and questioning decisions made by fallible text critics and translators, let’s make sure we are committed to “looking upward” for the answers to our greatest needs.
--Kevin L. Moore
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